Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7, 1861 (Tuesday): The Spirit of Thermopylae

View of Harper's Ferry From Maryland Heights

Harper’s Ferry, Va. May 7, 1861

Major-General Lee, Commanding Virginia Forces:
    GENERAL: I forward herewith a statement of the strength of my command at this point, of the deficiency of arms, ammunition, and accouterments.
    The deficiencies I respectfully request may be supplied at the earliest practicable period, as I wish to put the post in as defensible a condition as possible.  I have finished reconnoitering the Maryland Heights and have determined to fortify them at once, and hold them, as well as the Virginia Heights and the town, be the cost what it may  For this purpose I would urge the necessity of giving me an ample supply of good arms, and such disciplined troops as you can spare (though it should swell the number here to nine thousand five hundred or ten thousand men).
…..I would be more than gratified could you spare the time for a short visit here to give me the benefit of your wisdom and experience in laying out the different works, especially those on the heights.  I am of the opinion that this place should be defended with the spirit which actuated the defenders of Thermopylae, and, if left to myself, such is my determination.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                              T.J. JACKSON,
                              Colonel, Virginia Volunteers, Commanding

Jackson, well read in history, no doubt was struck by the impressive position on Maryland Heights, calling to mind Thermopylae where 7,000 Greeks held off nearly 300,000 Persians (according to legend) for seven days.  It appears Jackson was intent on impressing Lee, while at the same time hoping to gather an even larger force together to defend Harper's Ferry and possibly move to the West to open up more of the State. 

No comments:

Post a Comment